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Bluetooth, We Hardly Knew Ye

Following up on the technologies we think will capture some of the spotlight in 2006 (See Technologies to Watch in 2006), we've compiled a short list of the ones that have been overhyped, have failed to meet expectations, or have simply run their course. Here are the technologies you can wave a fond, or not so fond, farewell to:

802.11b: The original WiFi specification, the one that started it all back in 1999, has had its moment. The specification has already been largely supplanted by the faster 802.11g specification in the laptop and access point market, but still lives on in some phones, PDAs, and consumer electronics devices.

In all likelihood 2006 will be the year that PDA users demand the extra horsepower provided by g, and WiFi phone users look to 802.11a for the additional bandwidth it provides for VOIP applications.

Either way, it's buh-bye to b.

Bluetooth: The short-range wireless technology is moving closer and closer to essentially becoming a component of Ultra-Wideband (UWB)(See Bluetooth's White Flag). We predict it won't be a separate entity by end of the year.

Now, if only we could get rid of those dorks with the clip-on Bluetooth headsets as easily.

The "Fat" Enterprise Access Point: Sales of wireless LAN switches and the "skinny" access points (APs) they control have been climbing throughout 2005. Now, with all the major vendors offering some form of switch and managed AP architecture, we could see start to see the standalone AP start to become far less common in the corporate environment.

Of course, there are --and will continue to be -- large legacy deployments of "fat" APs deployed in the enterprise. And for smaller applications it continues to make sense to use one or two "intelligent" APs.

But for 2006, thin is in.

MP3 Cellphones: Seriously, what a lousy idea, bringing you the worst features of mobile phones and portable music players in one unwieldy package. And you're even more screwed if you lose it.

The Pringles Can Antenna: Homemade WiFi signal boosters used to be one of the big signifiers of the independent nature of the wireless LAN community.

You won't see them around much longer. Partly because WiFi signals are getting stronger in themselves (see 802.11b, above), and partly because there are many inexpensive commercial options available.

This is also a sign of commercial forces dampening the pioneering, do-it-yourself ethic of 802.11 -- especially now that that service providers, vendors and governments have invaded the home turf of early WiFi nuts and are looking to provide free community access through municipal mesh networks.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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